A boy plays on the gun of a destroyed Syrian army tank partially covered in the rubble of the destroyed Azaz mosques, north of the restive city of Aleppo, on Thursday, August 2.
Fighting intensifies in Syria’s largest city
CNN, August 4, 2012 -- Anti-government rebels brazenly tried to seize a state-run broadcasting building on Saturday as the bloody battle for Syria’s largest city persisted.
The rebel Free Syrian Army pushed into the radio and TV complex in Aleppo, where the government broadcasts, and seized some control. But the fighters eventually had to withdraw because of snipers and military shelling, the opposition Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.
FSA commanders said the site is no longer able to broadcast because of bombardment in the area from Syrian aircraft.
Commanders say a rebel flag has been planted on top of the building, a symbolic stride for the rebels. They are reporting large columns of military vehicles heading to Aleppo from Latakia on the Mediterranean coast and Damascus.
The regime reported 'a large number of terrorists killed and injured during their attempt to storm the state-run TV and radio building in Aleppo.'
But the rebel thrust reflects the confidence and growing clout of the armed resistance, which intends to wrest control of the sprawling metropolis from the much larger and better equipped forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The fighting across Aleppo has raged for days in the city, causing widespread destruction and casualties and forcing civilians to flee. Opposition activists are reporting heavy regime bombardment and rebel attacks in several Aleppo neighborhoods on Saturday. The regime is reporting the deaths, injuries and surrendering of dozens of 'terrorists' in several neighborhoods.
One skirmish unfolded in Aleppo’s Khan al-Assal neighborhood.
Mustafa Abdallah, a Free Syrian Army commander, claimed fighters killed a few dozen soldiers in a two-hour gun battle and captured eight others. At least one rebel fighter died, he said. Rebels eventually retreated as helicopters shelled the area and military reinforcements advanced, Abdallah said.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported the deaths and injuries of a 'big number of terrorists' in Khan al-Assal and confiscated weaponry.
The LCC reported at least 56 deaths across the country Saturday, the LCC said. Women, children and military defectors were among those slain in Deir Ezzor, Damascus and its suburbs, and other locations. The LCC reports six deaths in Aleppo, but it is not known if any of those fatalities occurred in Khan al-Assal.
The Syrian government also acknowledged widespread deaths Saturday in other places, including Deir Ezzor, Hama, Idlib and Homs provinces, and Damascus and its suburbs. It said it killed and injured many people it labeled 'terrorists.'
In the Damascus area,'armed terrorists' attacked a bus carrying 48 Iranian Shiite pilgrims and kidnapped them, Iranian state media said. Syrian state-run media also reported the bus abduction and said it is under investigation.
It is not known if the hijacking is linked to the resistance against the Syrian government. The Iranian government is an ally of the al-Assad regime, which has been fighting a rebel movement dominated by Sunnis.
The latest reports of bloodshed came as the Syrian regime turned to Russia for financial aid, saying the economic squeeze of international sanctions has taken its toll.
Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil told reporters in Moscow on Friday that Syria is facing an unfair Western economic blockade and that Western sanctions target the Syrian people’s livelihood, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported. Jamil made the comments after meeting with Russian officials.
Syrian Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jleilati mentioned the possibility of Russia providing loans to help Syria, SANA said. Al-Jleilati added that while Syria has sufficient reserves, the current situation requires extra reserves.
'We ask for some hard currency. Russia promised to consider the request,' al-Jleilati said, according to Russia’s official Itar-Tass news agency. 'That would help Syria to recover from the crisis.'
Syria has not determined how much money it wants to borrow from Russia, but a decision will be made within weeks, Jamil said, according to Itar-Tass.
While Syria bemoaned Western sanctions against the country, a myriad of world ambassadors rebuked the regime at the U.N. General Assembly on Friday in a resolution on Friday.
The resolution slammed the Syrian government for its crackdown and the U.N. Security Council for its failure to counter the crisis. It adopted the Saudi-sponsored resolution 133-12, with 31 abstentions.
But China, one of the nations to vote against the resolution, defended its stance on Saturday.
Wang Kejian, deputy director general at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said China 'is opposed to any action forcing a regime change in Syria and sanctions can only make the situation more complicated.'
'Solutions imposed from outside do not help solve the crisis,' he said.
The resolution notes 'human rights abuses by armed opposition groups' and condemns 'all violence, irrespective of where it comes from, including terrorist acts.'
But most of its ire is reserved for al-Assad’s regime. It strongly condemns 'the continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by the Syrian authorities and pro-governmental militias.'
It also reiterated its 'call for an inclusive Syrian-led political transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system.'
General Assembly resolutions are legally non-binding, unlike Security Council resolutions. Diplomats hope the action will put pressure on the Security Council to take tough action on Syria. So far, Russia and China have blocked tough council resolutions against the regime.
The Syrian conflict has claimed roughly 17,000 lives, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last month. Opposition activists put the toll at more than 20,000.